‘Hate Speech’ Hysteria Wins Again In Berkeley

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Scott Greer Contributor
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“Hate speech” has risen to the fore of public debate recently thanks to the turmoil surrounding Ann Coulter’s just canceled appearance at UC Berkeley.

The famous conservative commentator had to pull out of her speaking engagement following dithering from the university and threats from leftist agitators. The final nail in the coffin for her appearance came in the form of her sponsor group, Young America’s Foundation, withdrawing support from the event. (RELATED: Ann Coulter Cancels Speech After Losing Her Backing)

All of the furor against Coulter was based on the assumption that her views amount to “hate speech,” which, according to many on the Left, has no justification for being expressed on a college campus.

Last week, former Vermont governor Howard Dean weighed in on the matter by declaring, “Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment.”

Dean’s argument, which is not at all supported by legal precedent, was quickly roasted on Twitter and throughout the Internet. However, that prompted the one-time presidential candidate to double down on his belief that hate speech is not protected by the Constitution. (RELATED: Howard Dean Suggests The First Amendment Doesn’t Protect Ann Coulter)

Even the liberal American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is defending Coulter’s right to speak and firmly stated it’s protected by the Constitution.

Considering the lack of a good legal argument for suppressing so-called hate speech, it’s a wonder how anyone can justify censoring views they deem offensive. That’s because the more prevalent view for the vanguard of the left is to ignore the Constitution and go straight to emotional appeals about protecting vulnerable groups from danger.

The New York Times gave a platform to this view on Monday by publishing an essay from New York University vice provost Ulrich Baer. Baer dispensed with Constitutional justification, which there’s little, and went straight for feel-good, moralistic reasoning on making the world a more equal place. (RELATED: NYT Op-Ed Argues Free Speech Needs Boundaries To Protect The ‘Marginalized’)

Baer argued in his op-ed that we shouldn’t be obligated to allow those who express opinions that “invalidate the humanity of some people” to speak freely. Instead, “We would do better to focus on a more sophisticated understanding… of the necessary conditions for speech to be a common, public good. This requires the realization that in politics, the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.”

The meaning here is that if protected classes in society say that a view offends them, then the common good dictates for that speech to be suppressed. Just like the Founders intended!

Baer was mocked by an assortment of conservatives for his un-American viewpoint, but it is increasingly in line with the reasoning of the campus Left.

If hate speech eventually becomes a crime in America, its justification won’t be based on Constitutional grounds or really any historical precedent in this country. It will be all about how a diverse society like ours needs it in order to defend protected classes from opinions they don’t like. The scary thought is that argument might be enough for lawmakers to enact legislation to outlaw hate speech.

It hardly needs to be stated that such a measure would be a slippery slope to penalizing a whole range of opinions that run afoul of the powers that be and negate the whole purpose of having free speech.

As I document in my book, “No Campus for White Men,” colleges have become the breeding ground for a new moral culture, dubbed by sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning as victimhood culture, that allows for this anti-speech mentality to fester.

Victimhood culture places oppression as the highest status one can achieve, and designated victims enjoy the status of virtuous and good in this system. Thus, when professors or students are pointing towards “disadvantaged” groups for why speech should be censored, the voice of the victims weighs far more in the matter than that of legal documents crafted by privileged, white slave owners.

Appeals to victims and talk of “ensuring their safety” figure heavily in the decisions of whether universities should allow certain speakers a platform. When calling for figures such as Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos to be shut down, activists always cite how the speakers’ views threaten their well-being.

At the same time, the fantastical fear of harm on the part of the leftists justifies using violence against anyone they deem hateful oppressors. In the wake of the February anti-Milo riot in Berkeley, the student newspaper published several columns defending the violence as righteous actions against bigots. (RELATED: Berkeley Student Paper Publishes Columns PRAISING Anti-Milo Riot)

It’s maybe not surprising when 40 percent of millennials supporting laws restricting speech that is found offensive by minorities. This is the natural result of victimhood culture taking control of millions of young minds.

Coulter’s cancellation was a victory for the black-masked antifa, who got their way with threats and intimidation. Fortunately, many right-wingers are still planning to hold a rally in Berkeley on Thursday anyway in defiance of the violent leftists, sending a message that the anti-Coulter opposition can’t shut down all thoughts they hate. (RELATED: Trump Supporters Vow To Rally In Berkeley Without Ann Coulter)

The rally, unsanctioned by the university or city of Berkeley, may be more important for the cause of free speech than Coulter giving an unopposed talk in a campus auditorium. Those willing to use violence to silence their opponents need to know that that doesn’t work and that hundreds of people are willing to stand up against their intimidation.

If they are not opposed, then they easily achieve their dream of suppressing “hate speech” with a little bit of pressure exerted against cowardly administrators — no new law required.

In Europe, hate speech laws are already on the books in many countries and are used frequently against such popular heretics as French presidential contender Marine Le Pen and Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

The sole purpose of hate speech laws is to crush dissent from the establishment’s orthodoxy, not to protect the security of vulnerable minorities. Europe’s strangulating policies makes this abundantly clear.

America is the last true bastion of free speech in the world. If we allow rioters and progressive hacks like Howard Dean decide what’s hate speech, we sure as hell won’t remain the land of the free.

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